Sunday, July 20, 2014

Review: HomeSchoolPiano

HomeSchoolPiano, which provides online piano lessons with teacher Willie Myette, recently gave us the opportunity to review their HomeSchoolPiano - Complete Set of Books.  We were given a lifetime subscription for up five students, which obviously worked out perfectly for our family.

Have you ever wished that your children could learn to play the piano?  Have you struggled finding a piano teacher, or struggled with finding the time to run your children to lessons, or faced another barrier to providing piano lessons for your children?

HomeSchoolPiano might just be the answer for you.  This program is for all ages, and lessons are accessible any time that suits you.  All you need is:
  1. A piano or keyboard (with at least 49 full size keys)
  2. A tablet (any tablet, or even a smartphone) or computer with an internet connection
HomeSchoolPiano follows a six step method to teach piano to your child.

  1. Technique
  2. Rhythm
  3. Ear Training
  4. Reading
  5. Song
  6. Improvisation
By following this process, the student learns not only how to read and play music, but to compose original music.

There are 3 different levels (books) and beginner Core lessons, with PDF books to print for each level.  I printed out all of levels, and spiral bound them.  You could easily use a binder as well.  These workbooks contain music for the student to play, along with scales to practice, pages to practice rhythms, and empty music staffs to write down the music created during improvisation.  All of the workbook pages are labeled with the unit and lesson that they correspond to.

I had each of the boys figure out which level they should start at, because they've all had piano lessons (anywhere from 1 to 10 years, depending on the boy).  I don't play the piano, so I figured they could figure this out more easily than I could.  Then they just worked through the lessons a few times a week.  The boys used the iPad to watch the lessons and take the quizzes.

I can log in as the boys' teacher, and I have access to printable records for each boy.  I can use the this to check my students' progress and quiz scores, as well as keep tabs on the percent complete of each lesson.  I can also check to see when they last logged in.

I love this online program.  I love that the boys are learning technique, correct form, sight reading, as well as improvisation.  We view learning to play music as an important part of the boys' education, and even though they aren't beginners, HomeSchoolPiano is very beneficial for them.  The boys don't always love piano, but they like this program.  The most difficult thing about this is making sure they practice, but that's always been the case.  Willie is a good teacher, and it's nice that we're able to do lessons on our schedule.  Having the ability to check their progress from anywhere is very beneficial.  I just found out our piano teacher is taking the semester off from teaching, so instead of looking for a new teacher, we will continue with HomeSchoolPiano lessons.  It sure is convenient!

 There are two different options for purchasing the HomeSchoolPiano program, both of which provide unlimited, life-time access for up to five students.
  • One payment of $299
  • Payment plan:  3 monthly payments of $99.97/month


Still aren't sure if HomeSchoolPiano will work for you?  You can sign up for a free lesson on the website.
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It's That Time Again

I'm not sure I have everything we need, but I started writing lesson plans this weekend.  I'm a visual person, I think, and work best when I can stack books in different piles according to subject.

I worked all day yesterday and really thought I'd be farther along than I am, but will keep plugging away today.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Planning & Printing

I'm making a bit of progress on plans for this coming year.  This is good news, because we need to start!  Activities start up in a month, and I'd like to get into a routine with the subjects we're doing at home before the craziness of the year starts.

So I'm spending a crazy Saturday night planning courses and printing assignments.

Monday, July 07, 2014

It Was a Happy 4th!

We had a lovely 4th of July.  We spent the day working together as a family, putting up the boys' new trampoline.  Our old one was 12ft and over the last couple of weeks the boys walked in with springs and the canvas strip that held them to the mat, so it was definitely time to replace it.  The one we got is 15ft, so there was more leveling of the ground that had to be done.

Once my part was finished, I was able to work a bit more on cleaning the school room up.  I finished last night (finally).   Over the last couple of weeks, I went through all the books, organized the shelves, cleaned up the closet, and cleaned out their binders.  Now I'm ready to start planning for the new year.

We grilled burgers for dinner, and then stopped and got ice cream and went to the parking lot of a nearby school where we were able to watch a handful of fireworks displays.  A very nice day.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Review: Veritas Press Self-Paced History

Veritas Press has been one of those homeschool friendly companies that I've liked from the very beginning of our journey.  They produce beautiful materials that make me want to pick them up and look them over and use them.  I was thrilled when the opportunity arose for us to review one of their Self-Paced History courses.

I looked over the options, and chose the Self-Paced History:  Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation course, since this fits the time period my younger boys will be studying in the fall.  This course is priced at $199, and includes access for 12 months.  In addition to the online course, we were also sent the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation Flashcards ($19.95) for review.

Have you ever wished you could have a passionate, engaging, knowledgeable history teacher come into your house every day and teach your child?  This is exactly what the Self-Paced History courses from Veritas Press provide.  The courses use interactive lessons, games, puzzles, and quizzes to teach your child history.
The Self-Paced History courses are designed for use by children in grades 2-6.  There are 5 different courses available:
  • Old Testament and Ancient Egypt
  • New Testament, Greece, and Rome
  • Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation
  • Explorers to 1815
  • 1815 to Present
These courses follow the history paradigm that history is best studied by beginning at the beginning and then progressing chronologically through until today.  Each course has 160 lessons that cover 32 major events, and you can view sample lessons for each course here.
The 32 events covered for each course are the same events that are highlighted on the flashcards.  This is handy because you can pull out your hardcopy of the flashcards to review the material your child is learning.  These flashcards are full color, with relevant artwork depicting each event on the front.  On the back, there are a few paragraphs that detail the event, and there are also resources listed with page numbers if you'd like to read more about what is on each card.

Some of the events covered in the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation course are:
  • Barbarian Invasion and Vikings
  • Otto I and the Holy Roman Empire
  • Cathedrals in Europe
  • St. Thomas Aquinas
  • The Council of Trent
For example, in one of the earliest lessons in our course, the student is learning about St. Augustine.  As part of this, they also learn about the Trinity (the teaching is done by a person who is dressed as if they live in the time period) and then have to unscramble a puzzle that gives the meaning of "trinity".  The whole course is filled with examples like this, and as a result your child learns while having fun.
A great benefit for you, the parent, other than having the aforementioned engaging teacher, is that the child's work is automatically graded.  This allows you to keep track of how they're doing, even if you can't stay by them for each and every lesson.

Front of MARR flashcard
Back of MARR flashcard
I used this course with Micah, my 10 year old 5th grader.  I loved that I could have him do his history lesson without me, and I loved that I knew he was learning and could easily see how he was doing, even if I couldn't be around for his lessons.  Since I've been working part time, I've been looking for ways to have the boys be more independent.  This program fit that criteria nicely. 

Micah enjoyed the program for the most part.  It helped, I'm sure, that he loves all things Middle Ages, so he's super excited about studying these things for school.  There were a couple of the games/puzzles that I had to help him with, so that did discourage him a bit that he couldn't get it himself.  The ones he needed help with were mostly things that were timed, and he simply couldn't complete the task in the allotted time (unscrambling words and moving the tiles into the proper spot was one I remember helping him with).

Overall, though, I consider this program to be well worth the money.  Whether you're looking for a way to spice up your history studies, or whether you're simply looking for a way to have history be less teacher intensive, this is a program you should consider.

If you have an older student, Veritas Press also has Self-Paced Omnibus programs.  You can read reviews about all the different history courses and Omnibus I if you click on the banner below.

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Monday, June 30, 2014

Bacon is Beautiful

Nicholas (8), while sitting at the counter watching me cook dinner:  "I think I'll skip eating eggs and just sit here and admire this pan of bacon."

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Normally by this time in summer, I have our plans finalized, all books purchased,  and I've started entering lesson plans into Homeschool Tracker. 

This year, though, I'm feeling overwhelmed.  I've got a lot of what we need (I think(, but my thoughts and ideas are inside my head bumping into each other like super-heated molecules.  Our year will look quite different than it has in the past because of a couple of outside classes and the fact I'm now working part time.  I'm thinking of not using Homeschool Tracker, wondering if having paper plans where we can see all the assignments will help us stay on track.  But I'm not quite sure how to work it out yet.  The binder system for holding upcoming assignments that we've used for several years didn't work out for us this past year, so I'm rethinking how to handle storing our daily work.  Individual folders?  Using my Pro-Click to make spiral notebooks for each subject? 

Our new year starts in July, which is next week.  I've got to force myself to sit down and work on sorting this stuff out.

But right now, the World Cup is on.

Saturday, June 14, 2014


Why classical education is troublesome:

Me:  "Do you know how slow you walk?  Are you never in a hurry?"
Luke:  "Slow and steady wins the race."
Jacob:  "OOooh.  Burn."

Monday, June 09, 2014

Review: Learning Wrap Ups

I find myself keeping an eye out for things that will occupy my younger boys during school time.  I was thrilled when the opportunity to review these products (perfect for grades K-5th) from Learning Wrap ups:

Learning Palette

As you can see, the Learning Palette base is a yellow disk with 12 smaller colored disks that fit around the circle.  Some of the colored disks are solid, and some have holes punched out of the middle.  The question cards fit over two posts on the front of the disk (the two posts keep the question card from spinning).  The center post allows for a plastic cover to be screwed on to hold all the disks in place so they aren't lost while the Learning Palette is being stored.

The student places the card they are working with on the Learning Palette.  On the front of the card are questions, with a solid colored dot or a colored dot with a hole in it next to the question.  The student answers the question by placing the correct disk next to the answer.  For example, on one card in my reading kit, the student is looking for synonyms.  The word "companion" has a green dot with a hole in it next to it, so the student would place the green disk with a hole in it next to the word "buddy".

To check the answer, the student flips the card over and places it on the two posts.  The student is able to quickly check the answers by looking at the colored bar next to the disks they placed for their answer.
  • Numeration:  Whole Numbers
  • Numeration:  Fractions
  • Numeration:  Decimals and Percent
  • Algebra Concepts
  • Geometry & Measurement
  • Probability & Statistics
3rd Grade Reading 1 Base Center Kit topics:
  • Synonyms, Antonyms, & Homophones
  • Vocabulary
  • Grammar
  • Prefixes and Suffixes
  • Reading Comprehension

Each topic for both math and reading contain 144 challenges (12 cards with 12 questions per card).  There are kindergarten through 5th grade levels available for math, and kindergarten through 3rd grade levels available for reading.

In addition to the physical Learning Palette, there is an online program available. gives your child access to all the levels of both reading and math, and works much the same way as the physical product.  The same types of discs are available for your student to drag and drop to answer the questions.  Answers can be checked by clicking a "check answers" button, and the disks they've placed are marked with either a red x or a green checkmark.

Wrap ups
In addition to the Learning Palette, I also received two kits of Learning Wrap ups.  Learning Wrap ups look like large plastic keys.  They are made of a sturdy plastic, and each set is held together with a plastic rivet, so your student can spin whichever key they are working on out.  There is a string attached to each set.  To answer the questions, the student places the string into the first slot on the left-hand side, and then wrap the string to the answer on the right-hand side of the key.  The student continues down the question side of the key, until they've answered all the questions.  To check the answers, the key is flipped over.  There is a raised pattern on the back of each key, and if the string matches the pattern the student knows the answers are correct.
Learning Wrap up Vocabulary Intro Kit:
  • Synonyms
  • Homonyms
  • Compound Words
  • Antonyms
  • Addition
  • Subtraction
  • Multiplication
  • Division
  • Fractions
We also received 10 Steps to Addition Mastery Wrap up and Book Combo and 10 Days to Multiplication Mastery Wrap up and Book Combo.  These books are used in conjunction with the corresponding Wrap up to help the student master multiplication and addition.  There are pages that use the Wrap up to help the student increase their speed, pages, review pages, word problems, and other activities.  The student keeps track of the facts they've learned, and by the end of the book they will have mastered addition or subtraction facts.


I like the fact there aren't any grade levels listed.  One of the benefits of homeschooling is having your child work at his or her level, but many products make this difficult by clearly stating the grade level.  Jacob (6th), Micah (4th), and Nicholas (2nd) all worked with these products, both physical and the online program.  Because they are marked with levels instead of grade levels, this was not an issue-- for example, Nicholas was able to work on Reading skills using the Learning Palette at a level higher than his grade, and Micah was able to work right on grade level using the Level 4 Learning Palette for math practice.  Micah was also able to reinforce Reading skills using the Learning Palette below his grade level, and Jacob was able to reinforce Math skills by using the Learning Palette below his grade level.  And they all used the Wrap ups to work on various vocabulary and math skills. is a great idea, though it still has a few bugs.  As their teacher, I can view their progress through my account.  It appears the bottom of the report is cut off, but I can't scroll down to see.  That said, Jacob, Micah, and Nicholas all enjoyed this program.  During the review period, Jacob was in bed sick with strep for 4 days.  I pulled up the website, handed him the iPad, and told him to play around with it.  He spent a good amount of time (in between naps) exploring and doing various cards, and he liked passing the time with it. 

Micah and Nicholas also spent time on the website and enjoyed it, though both enjoyed the physical products more.  Moving the physical pieces to the Learning Palette was a bit more rewarding for these active boys.

All three really enjoyed using the Wrap ups.  Again, the physical act of wrapping the string was rewarding, and they liked being able to flip the key over to check their answer.  Micah made it a point to tell me he enjoyed these products because he didn't have to write anything down.

I had Jacob work on the multiplication book.  He struggles with remembering math facts, and this was worth his time.  He liked that it was clear and uncluttered, and he likes using the keys alongside having to write things down.

When the boys have some time and I want to keep their brains engaged, these are fun to pull out.  They don't require much teacher time from me; I just explain what they are supposed to do if it isn't clear (mostly on the Learning Palette cards), and let them learn through play.  My favorite thing about all of the products that we received is that they are all self-correcting, and the boys can see right away if they are right or wrong.

All in all, these are high quality products, and they make a great addition to any elementary homeschool.  Go to to see all the different levels offered, and use the code "HOMESCHOOL" to receive 20% off your order (use the same code at for 20% off the online program).


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Saturday, June 07, 2014

My Loving Kid

I've had a not-fun cold for the past week.  Yesterday I woke up to this on my nightstand:

"dear mom  i hope you feel better!  Mom there are way so many things you do for me it would take even more than a million books to come close to telling you what you've done for me.  your loving kid Micah"
Love that sweet boy.